Funds Will Support Plans to Strengthen Daily Instruction, Expand Professional Development Opportunities, Improve Behavioral Intervention in 2019-2020

BATON ROUGE, LA—A committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) today approved about $40 million to improve nearly 500 struggling schools among 112 school systems across the state. The competitive allocations, which will be voted on by the full board on Wednesday, will support schools as they implement their state-approved, evidence-based strategies for improvement during the 2019-2020 school year. The strongest plans focus on enhancing daily instruction, expanding professional development opportunities for all educators, and improving behavioral intervention practices.

“Schools, like any organization, achieve success when they have thoughtful plans of improvement and when staff are unified in their understanding and embrace those plans,” said State Superintendent John White. “We commend our schools for the focused plans they have put forth. Now it’s time to implement.”

Louisiana’s Process for Improving Struggling Schools
As required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Louisiana annually identifies struggling schools, awards competitive dollars to school systems that have strong evidence-based plans for improvement, and supports the implementation of those plans.

Louisiana identifies and labels struggling schools in three ways:

  • Comprehensive Intervention Required: consistently low overall performance and/or graduation rates;
  • Urgent Intervention Required-Academics: consistently low performance among certain groups of students; and
  • Urgent Intervention Required-Discipline: chronic issues with student behavior.

Schools that meet these criteria are required to identify strategies for improvement as part of the state’s newly improved, annual school system planning process. The Louisiana Department of Education reviews the improvement strategies submitted by school systems, and ultimately approves or rejects them based on whether they meet the state’s criteria. The Department also recommends to BESE how much competitive funding each plan should receive.

Over time, the Department supports the implementation of each approved plan and monitors its progress.

School Improvement in 2019-2020
In 2018, 276 schools were identified as in need of comprehensive improvement, 180 schools were identified as in need of urgent intervention due to challenges with specific groups of students, and 44 were identified as in need of urgent intervention due to higher than average discipline rates. See the list of struggling schools.

Each school system that was required to submit a plan for their schools did so. Of the 456 total plans submitted by schools flagged for academic performance, 431 were approved and funded. Of the 44 total plans submitted by schools flagged for discipline, 37 plans were approved and funded. See the list of allocations.

Among the highlights of the plans for 2019-2020:

  • Approved plans seek to increase school-based capacity by growing the Content Leader and Mentor Teacher cadres. Content Leaders are local educators who have the knowledge, skills, and concrete resources to provide content- and curriculum-specific professional development to new and current teachers in their school system. Mentor Teachers are local educators who have the knowledge and skills to effectively coach and support new teachers and aspiring teachers who are completing their yearlong, classroom-based residencies. Both roles are an important step in the leadership pipeline for talented local educators.
  • Approved plans provide increased support for school principals. Leaders of academically struggling schools will participate in the state’s Principal Fellowship Program, a yearlong leadership development program for principals and assistant principals at any stage of their career.  In addition, the state will award stipends for school principals to travel to and participate in a special track of sessions at the 2019 Teacher Leader Summit this summer.
  • Approved plans embrace a multi-tiered system of support and response for student behavior. As part of Louisiana’s effort to renew its approach to student discipline, school systems statewide are supporting the implementation of evidence-based strategies that promote healthy school climate, utilize a tiered system of behavioral interventions, and adopt social-emotional learning curricula to support individual student growth.
  • Twenty-three of the approved plans came from academically struggling high schools that participated in the Louisiana High School Redesign Cohort. The cohort was a network of 29 schools across the state selected to work together and with experts from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education to rethink the core components of their high school design.

The Department will support school systems and schools with implementation of their plans starting at the annual Teacher Leader Summit where various sessions will be closely aligned to the key strategies outlined in the approved plans. The Summit will take place June 26-28 in New Orleans.